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Forecast 2013: Master of Science in Technology Commercialization

The past two years have seen explosive growth in the Master of Science in Technology Commercialization program. Established in 1996, the program, which teaches how to identify new technologies and bring them to market, was housed under the auspices of UT’s IC2 Institute. In 2010, with 36 students on board, the program relocated to the McCombs School of Business. Enrollment almost doubled the following year and reached 89 for the Class of 2013.

During the same two-year period, the Texas MSTC hit the rankings charts, interestingly, under two different rubrics. The program came in ninth in the world for entrepreneurship in 2011-12 in the Eduniversal ranking … only to top that with a No. 5 global rank for engineering and project management for 2012-13.

We spoke with MSTC Marketing Coordinator Vanessa Manley, as well as Scott Good, the program’s new career development specialist, to find out what’s behind the momentum and what lies ahead for the burgeoning program.

What’s fueling the growth and accolades?

VM: Placing the MSTC under the McCombs brand made the program much more visible to prospective students who were searching for entrepreneurial options. We’re seeing increasing demand and stronger applicants, whether from engineers who want to understand how to get a technology to market, or from business professionals who want to know more about product development.

Also, the live online option for attending the course, which uses state-of-the-art video webcast, has really opened the door. Working professionals and international students with a broadband connection can participate from anywhere in the world.

What's on the horizon for your program?

VM: More visibility, more synergies with UT and especially more outreach to hiring companies.

We just held our first-ever networking event Jan. 31. Sponsored by Argand Technologies, the event was a chance for students to get in front of both venture capitalists and hiring companies (Hewlett-Packard, National Instruments, Bazaarvoice, and Indeed.com, to name just a few, attended).

We’ve got 16 teams of four to five students in the current class and nine of these teams competed in the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition. This is the Super Bowl of investment competitions and it’s quite amazing to see almost 60 percent of our students in the running. What’s more, three of the MSTC teams made it to the 2013 Texas finals last week and one of them, Seismos, just took home the gold.

We’re hosting our own booth at SXSW Interactive this March, right next to the McCombs MBA booth. This allows both companies and individuals to be better informed of the specific skill set of our students.

But our really big news is hiring a career development specialist, Scott Good, who is 100 percent devoted to the needs of MSTC students, both on the advising side and in employer outreach.

What can students expect on the career front?

SG: Growing awareness among employers of the program’s unique value-add. MSTC is different in program design and focus from, say, your traditional MBA, so employers need a little more explanation on what exactly the program does.

Once they find out, they get really excited. The MSTC teaches a set of skills that simply is not taught, or is taught only at a more general or broad level in other programs. Most technology companies are struggling with market validation — that is, deciding whether a new product is worth the time and energy to develop it — and expertise in this area is not always easy to find.

But what’s really compelling to employers is MSTC’s use of real technologies — not just case studies or other hypothetical exercises. Throughout the program, our students are working on actual innovations, submitted to us from the likes of IC2, Austin Technology Incubator, and incubators and businesses around the country. So learning market validation, writing business plans, and addressing patent and licensing issues always revolve around a real product. Several of these products have turned into successful commercial ventures for our grads.

Why is the program important and how can students find out more?

SG: The MSTC student masters the very early stages of product development — from market validation to launch — that so many companies are struggling with. This is the sweet spot between the worlds of engineering and entrepreneurship that you see reflected in our two recent rankings. After a product is launched and needs to be marketed and maintained, that’s more the world of the traditional MBA.

Check out our website and register for an info session.

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